Miners struggle in Spain while the rich spoilby Farooque Chowdhury
While the working people are struggling in Spain the rich are squandering.
Unions for coal mining workers are waging a general strike. In more than 40 coal mines in northern Spain, thousands of miners protesting austerity measures are on strike for weeks. ‘Austerity’ will take away about 4,000 mining jobs. The miners are defending the jobs and protesting plans to cut subsidies, by about two-third. Reducing subsidies will deeply hurt the mining industry.
Charging and clashing with the striking miners for several hours, the police tried to remove roadblocks of burning tyres, fired rubber bullets and tear gas and charged with batons. A journalist suffered a rubber bullet injury. The strikers fought to drive back the riot police trying to break up protests.
Taking to the mountains and forests for cover, the miners fired ‘sky rockets’ and ball-bearings through pipes, to push back the police. Slings, golf ball launchers and home-made devices to fire potatoes were also used by the miners to defend themselves. A number of local offices of the ruling Popular Party were attacked.
In Asturias, roads and railways were blockaded in towns and cities including Bendición, Lieres and Campomanes. León experienced more powerful protests. Vehicles were diverted because of the blockade there. At Ciaño, the railway line was blockaded. The strikers laid chains across the tracks. Later they lifted the blockade.
In the mines at Candín and Aller, seven miners staged a lock-in. Three of them remained entrenched underground in Aller.
The regional government has asked the conservative central government to reorder its plan for cutting down subsidies to the mining industry.
The strike is the expression of defending their rights and existence in the face of capital’s onslaught on the working populace. The workers have not only stood for their jobs, they are actually defending the mining industry also.
While capital indulged in speculation with real estate and construction of housing complexes, shopping malls, etc, the workers are struggling for industry. Capital has not turned hostile to mining. It’s just trying to intensify the process of appropriation: more output with less labour, and have a bigger reserve army of labour to keep labour pressed down.
Not only workers, but common people in Spain are also bearing the burden that capital’s gamble in the Spanish real estate casino has ‘constructed’.
Citing a report by the Red Cross in Catalonia Europa Press informed: The crisis is affecting family dynamics in Spain. The burden on the elderly is heavy. Financial help from the older generation to the younger has become the only way for many to survive. One in three of the elderly has had to help younger family members. This reality is going on for the last two years. The old are helping with the money they receive from the retirement benefits. One in four elderly citizens has had to house one or more younger members who have come back to family homes. Increases in prices and expenditures have taken away 70 percent of savings of persons in the age group of over 65 years. Deteriorations of the welfare state, 70 percent of the respondents perceive, is the cause behind the crisis.
As a consequence of the crisis, the above source said, many elderly persons spend less on food, 20 percent of the respondents can’t afford fruit, meat and fish regularly, and about half of them can’t afford to visit a dentist or ophthalmologist. According to a concerned official, about half of them can’t afford maintaining an adequate temperature in their houses and 80 percent of the respondents can’t afford expenses related to leisure or spare time activities.
The elderly, the retired section of the society, are not spared by capital. Tentacles of appropriation have been spread wide – among the old – although they have left factories, etc years ago. Consumption of the old is being taxed. Retirement benefits, part of their wages, which was given for necessary labour time and for regeneration of capital, are now being taken back – being snatched away – by capital. Multiple generations – the old, the retired persons and the young – are being appropriated. Capital has capitalised the crisis to intensify its appropriation activities.
The crisis is bringing up hard facts.
Following a proposal tabled by the opposition and passed in parliament, a ban on advertising sexual services in newspapers and media websites has been lifted ‘because of the recession’. Legislation regulating publicity and advertising was due to be amended to formally prohibit advertisements by brothels, escort agencies or persons working as prostitutes. The plan has now been scrapped. A report in 2007 said: ‘Advertising for sexual services earned the press around €40 million a year.’
Capital is not concerned with the question of others’ morality while earning by advertising prostitution, etc. It’s making that earning with the approval of its legislature. It has unhesitatingly unmasked the face of its legislature. Prostitution is not a moral question to capital. Rather, capital’s survival is the moral question to capital. Appropriation is not the question of capital’s morality. Capital taxes human body and soul. So the question of morality related to earning from advertisement of prostitution does not arise to capital. It’s the morality and moral standard of capital and of its ruling machines.
It would not have been possible for a backward society or a society depending on forest for its survival or a society with primitive production to profit from advertising prostitution. An advanced capitalist society that has constructed many centres of education, culture, arts, that loves to own famous artworks depends on advertising of sexual services. The society has sophisticated tools for communicating and propagating its ideology to the ruled. These are also tools for imposing its ideology on the ruled.
These are not strange behaviours of capital. Rather, it’s the way capital behaves. It profits from crisis. During periods of crisis, it widens its net for appropriation, it intensifies appropriation. Labour, old, retired, advertising from sex work, every bit and all corners of society are appropriated.
‘Reforming’ the labour market in Spain is the same program with the same purpose. Impositions of harsh austerity measures including massive health care and education budget cuts, drastically slash salaries of public employees, increasing of retirement age, higher indirect tax, ‘rationalising’ subsidies as well as ‘disciplining’ the autonomous regions’ finances are the conditions for Spain’s bank-bailout. Liquidation of state-owned companies and ‘transfer’ of public employees to the private sector are also in the agenda. The lender-dictators consider the already initiated labour reform as insufficient. Capital across the Spanish border that has come forward to aid capital in Spain demands this.
But the rich and the powerful don’t refrain from indulgence.
Following criticism against semi-private trips to luxury resorts and expensive dinners paid with public funds, Carlos Dívar, president of Spain’s Supreme Court and Judicial Council, will step down. The Council no longer has confidence in him.
On occasions, Dívar spent several days in resorts, although his work required only a few hours. Once, his work was for a day only, but he stayed in the hotel for five days. The expenses were covered by public money.
But Dívar defended his acts: There was no ‘legal, moral or political’ irregularity; those were not ‘luxury hotels, only […] four-star hotels’, ‘quite inexpensive’.
And, the Supreme Court decided not to open a lawsuit against Dívar to investigate his trips.
The honourable president of the Supreme Court and the honourable Supreme Court has confirmed the moral standard. The judiciary joins the legislature in upholding the standard. It’s a frank, point blank and honest show.
Mainstream press reports:
Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a German princess and a close friend of Spain’s King Juan Carlos, has been accused of usurping public functions. She allegedly acted as ‘representative’ and ‘advisor’ to the king. Charges have been brought against her.
Answers to the questions on why the German princess had appeared as ‘representative’ of the head of state and his ‘strategic advisor’ and ‘ambassador’, on occasions, were not provided.
Susana Cano, the mother of a young model who accused a Middle Eastern prince of rape four years ago, made the complaint. The case against the prince, a friend of King Carlos and Sayn-Wittgenstein, was closed by the court and the king himself sent a letter to congratulate the prince about the court’s decision. The prince received Sayn-Wittgenstein in the capital of his kingdom on at least two occasions in the capacity of ‘representative for His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain.’
Cano’s lawyer said Sayn-Wittgenstein seemed to have exercised in a role that is reserved to the authorities and public officers, including organising the king’s agenda during official visits, travelling in Spanish military airplanes, negotiating in the name of the king, etc.
There are reports of trips by the head of state and the German princess to sheikhdoms, where the king assisted during the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Sayn-Wittgenstein was received by the authorities, together with the king, and assisted in dinners with the first ladies of other heads of state, including the presidents of Rwanda, Gabon and Chechnya.
The close friendship between Sayn-Wittgenstein and King Carlos attracted media attention since the king’s widely criticised elephant-hunting trip to Botswana. Sayn-Wittgenstein participated in the hunting game.
It’s an appropriate friendship of royalty – a friendship between a king, a prince, a princess – a friendship in a capitalist kingdom with bourgeois democracy, a friendship spread from a modern capitaldom to medieval kingdom, where a princess from another land can usurp a king’s public functions.
So, there in the ‘story’ are many characters, incidents, processes and places: capital, its crisis, the intensification and widening of appropriation of labour, young, old, retirees, revenue for press, legislative authorisation for earning from advertising of prostitution as a way out for ‘hard pressed’ profit-situation, judiciary’s nod to spending of public money for private indulgence, four-star ordinary ‘hotel’, Formula 1 Grand Prix, king, usurpation of royal duties by a princess, regal friendship, kingdoms, sheikhdoms, and Rwanda, Gabon, Botswana and Chechnya. Almost a capitalist democratic fairy tale! Commoners’, workers’, miners’ struggle for survival, a tiny fraction of the money the rich spoil, are on the outskirt of these dominions of capital.
The story continues.
Spain has to implement a restructuring plan for its banks as a condition of financial aid of €100bn from the EU with an interest rate between 3-4 percent. The plan has to be presented by the end of July to the Eurogroup and to the eurozone finance ministers. A troika of the EC, the IMF and the ECB will control the implementation work. German and Brussels dictations, not the Spanish state, will decide the speed of the reform. Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Commission, likes centralised supervision of the banks.
Luis de Guindos, the Spanish finance minister, considers the terms ‘very favourable’ as Ireland pays an interest rate at over 5 percent on its loan from the EU and the IMF. ‘This is a loan […] very favourable – much more favourable than the market ones’, said de Guindos. The minister, happy with ‘favourable’ terms, would have turned sad if the source of interest was kept in mind. It is from appropriation of labour.
And, honourable also, as it has not been officially termed bailout. The Spanish prime minister is happy with the honour.
Although Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, at a recent conference of her Christian Democrats confirmed: The plan to help the Spanish banks ‘of course includes conditions’. Spain must continue with ‘its tough reforms.’
The Spanish banks, in essence, the state, has to accept more rigorous supervision by Brussels bosses.
Prime minister Rajoy’s rightist Popular Party, having absolute majority in the parliament, and Rubalcaba’s Socialist Party, the main opposition party, are in agreement on the major issues. The central bank chief had to leave early. Actually, the two ruling parties tactfully have not allowed the central bank chief to explain in the parliament the causes of nationalising the major Spanish bank.
A political storm is gathering in Spain, as indulgence and usurpation by the rich and the powerful form one part of the story. The other part, the people, the miners, the working class, their suffering and discontent with awarded austerity are other actors and factors. Recent opinion poll indicates the trend of dissatisfaction.
Euro’s political respite in Greece may turn temporary, as the Spanish problem is still threatening bigger interests. Whatever the outcome, the Spanish people’s suffering is increasing as is their discontent. There are signs of increasing political crisis in Spain.
Dhaka-based freelancer Farooque Chowdhury contributes on socioeconomic issues.
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